Do butterflies – particularly monarchs – fascinate you?
Create an attractive haven for these wonderful migratory insects by growing milkweed and nectar-producing plants. Your garden will become a place where you can observe these flamboyant Lepidoptera at your leisure. At the same time, you will help protect a migration phenomenon that is unique in the world and, unfortunately, in decline.
What are the criteria for getting Monarch Oasis certification?
For your Monarch Oasis to be certified, you must at least meet the three mandatory criteria listed below:
- Choose a quiet and sunny location for your garden, sheltered from the wind.
- Plant milkweed and nectar-producing plants, preferably indigenous species.
- Maintain your garden in an ecologically friendly way: choose suitable plants, feed seedlings with compost, use water wisely, be tolerant of insects (removing those that are unwanted with a jet of water or manually), and so on.
- Plant a variety of plants to prolong blooming, thus attracting more pollinators.
- Provide an area of wet sand between the flowerbeds, where the butterflies can get the mineral salts they need.
- Reduce the grassy area and increase the flowerbed area.
How to make a garden for monarchs?
Milkweed is the only plant on which female monarchs lay their eggs. Create a flower garden where they can feed and reproduce – while putting on a magnificent show for you.
Step 1 – Choose the right spot
An inviting place
Butterflies like peace and quiet. Set up your garden in a sunny, peaceful area sheltered from the wind. Choose features that retain the sun’s heat, such as paving stones, low walls and natural stones. The monarchs will warm up here on chilly days.
You don’t need a big yard – just a small corner or a few pots on a balcony will do.
Step 2 – Choose the right plants
Number one choice: milkweed
Milkweed is essential to monarch reproduction. Females lay their eggs only on this plant, which constitutes the sole source of food for the caterpillars. There are some species of milkweed indigenous to Québec, such as common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
If you garden on the balcony, a better choice might be the bloodflower (Asclepias currassavica). Treat this tropical species like an annual or grow it like a winter indoor plant.
For more information:
Adult monarchs feed off the nectar of flowers. A good variety of nectar-producing plants is a valuable asset for your garden. If space permits, add more diversity by planting annuals and perennials as well as trees and shrubs.
Favour native plants that are hardy, well adapted to our climate and require little maintenance.
Here are a few plant suggestions that will help you attract monarchs and other pollinators. When choosing plants, keep in mind the characteristics of your garden.
- Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, syn. Aster novae-angliae)*
- Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) – biennial
- Spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)*
- White turtlehead (Chelone glabra)*
- Meadow blazing-star (Liatris ligulistylis)
- Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)*
- Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)*
*Species indigenous to Québec. You can find these species at specialized nurseries.
Annuals or non-hardy perennials
- Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
- Garden cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
- Garden heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
- Black-eyed-Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- Golden marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia)
As its name indicates, the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is a favourite of lepidoptera. However, it is not very hardy, even in Montréal. It can nevertheless be grown as an annual.
For more information:
Step 3 – Tend the garden in an environmentally responsible way
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that pesticides, even low-impact ones, are harmful for butterflies. These products can kill caterpillars and adults, not to mention other beneficial insects.
To fight garden pests, better to attract caterpillars, lacewings, birds and other beneficial organisms.
Should a problem with insect pests, disease or weeds require that you take action, apply cultural, physical or mechanical methods. Use low-impact pesticides only as a last resort.
For more information:
To learn more:
Did you know that …
Monarch caterpillars and butterflies are not edible for birds. Most birds that eat them get sick and avoid repeating the experience. So you can easily combine a monarch oasis with a bird garden, if you want to enrich your My Space for Life Garden experience.
We also invite you to sign the David Suzuki Foundation’s Monarch Manifesto.